Tag Archives: Friendship

God’s People, part 256: Missionaries and Friends

Read Acts 13:14-52; 14:1-28; 15:1-41

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”  (Galatians 2:13, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 256: Missionaries and Friends: Barnabas and Paul are two names that should be known; however, people who are not Biblically literate have most definitely heard of Paul, but may not have heard of Barnabas. This is because, truthfully, Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament and Barnabas did not. Paul’s name is synonymous with early Christian theology, almost as much so as Jesus’.

Obviously, the entire New Testament is centered on Jesus and, rightfully so, that makes him the MOST known and certainly Christianity comes from his title, the Christ. With that said, Paul is the second most known person. Sure there’s Peter, James, John, Andrew, Mark, and Luke; however, it is Paul who is second most known in the New Testament. Even if people don’t know his name, you can bet that they will choose his passages for celebration of life services and for weddings. It is Paul who is quoted (whose quoting Jesus) when we celebrate Eucharist (aka Holy Communion).

Barnabas, on the other hand, is less known on the broad scale. If people have heard of him, they more than likely know him as Paul’s trusty sidekick; however, that is only slightly true at best. In fact, as has been mentioned before, Barnabas started off as Paul’s mentor. Paul was his trusty sidekick. That did change over time; however, the majority of time that Barnabas is seen with Paul, he was leading Paul and not the other way around.

With that said, these two were also very close and became more than just missionary partners. They were friends; they were brothers in Christ. This can be seen in Paul’s horror, expressed in Galatians, when he finds out that Barnabas was choosing James and Peter’s side on the issue of Gentile inclusion. He wrote, “even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” It’s as if Paul is crying out, “not Barnabas too!”

It is there that we see the first sign of a split between the two. Clearly, Barnabas disagreed with how far Paul was willing to take his mission to the Gentiles. Sure, they could become followers of Christ; however, could we really eat and drink with them if they were breaking Jewish kosher rules? Wouldn’t that be to forsake the Law given to Moses by God for the Jews to follow? While Acts says the split was over John Mark, and I have no doubt that was the final straw for Barnabas, this rift over Gentile inclusion clearly went unanswered and Paul presents no winning conclusion to it in Galatians.

What is sad is that Barnabas and Paul had been inseparable partners and friends for years and, because of theological and personal differences, they ended up going separate ways. As such, Barnabas falls out of the pages of Acts and all we learn about is Paul and ministry to the Gentiles. What did Barnabas do? What miracles did he perform, how many did he bring to Christ? All of that is lost beyond his association with Paul. We can be assured he continued to be a missionary and, he no doubt continued to nurture his cousin John Mark; however, we know no details.

This should challenge us because we have a sort of hindsight that Paul and Barnabas did not. We can see the real tragedy in the separation of these two faithful apostles, missionaries and friends. I am not saying they should or should not have parted ways. Perhaps it was for the best. I am also not saying that Christians today shouldn’t part ways when there are severe disagreements; however, we should be challenged to have enough humility to see the tragedy in that, for such severe separation has consequences beyond our control.

We can still express Christian love through it and, Paul and Barnabas did so. Paul never besmirched his former partner. He went his separate way and so did Barnabas. Still, we as Christians need to be cautious in how we approach one another and, if separation is inevitable and necessary, we need to still show a love for the other that witnesses to the power of Christ in both parties’ lives. Let us, consider all of this and begin to grow in Christ’s grace and love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
They will know we are Christians by our love.

PRAYER
Lord, help me be a great witness of your love and your grace. Amen.

God’s People, part 199: Blind Man

Read Mark 8:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.”  (Mark 2:4, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-heals-the-blind-manPart 199: Blind Man. Here we have yet another account of Jesus being bombarded by people seeking for him to be healed. In today’s passage, it is a blind man. In fact there are a number of blind people who Jesus heals. There’s the account we have today, which happened in Bethsaida. He also healed blind Bartimaeus later on in Mark. Matthew mentions him healing two blind people at the same time, one of whom may be the same unnamed person that is mentioned in our passage today.

In Luke, heals a blind person as he approached the city of Jericho. Finally, in John, Jesus heals an unnamed man who was born blind. In this account, Jesus does this very publicly in front of the religious leaders, which adds fuel to their fire. In this account, Jesus is not only healing the man for the sake of the man (though he does have compassion on him), but he is also performing the miracle to expose the Pharisees in their own “blindness”. We’ll revisit this account later on in the series.

In this passage, a blind man is brought to Jesus and the people who brought him begged Jesus to heal him of his blindness. Jesus took this man and led him out of the village. In other words, Jesus took the time to guide this man to a private, quiet place where he would not be a spectacle for others to gawk at. After spitting on the man’s eyes (gross…I know), the man told him that he could see, but things were blurry. Following laying his hands on the man, Jesus fully restored his sight and then sent him away, telling him not to go back into the village on his way home.

Minus the spitting, it is a beautiful, intimate, and touching scene between Jesus and this man who was in need. Out of that scene, though, a question arises: what if his friends didn’t take the time to bring him to Jesus and persistently beg for healing? Would that man have ever been healed of his sight? In fact, that question arises out of many of the healing accounts in the Gospel.

The truth is that the blind man and many of the people who were healed in the gospels would not have been healed had they no friends to persist and plead on their behalf. They would have, like countless other people, fallen through the cracks and left in their own suffering, misery and despair. Praise God for the people who decided to advocated for those people who had such desperate needs.

This should also cause us to pause and reflect on ourselves and the world around us. How many people do we know who are struggling and in need of hope, healing and wholeness? Who is pleading on their behalf? Who is advocating for them so that they might find the healing they need? Who is persistent in pleading for their wellness?

We all should be challenged to be like the friends of this blind man, who cared so much that they sought Jesus out and persistently begged for his healing. This should challenge us to be more aware of the needs around us and more inspired to DO SOMETHING to fill those needs. Let us be a people of empathy as opposed to apathy, for this is what pleases the Lord and this is what is desperately needed to counteract the evil and hopelessness of the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker

PRAYER
Lord, help me be an advocate for those who are in need, so that they may not only receive healing, but that they might also realize they are not alone. Amen.